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Research paper on the symbolism in the play, the glass menagerie
The Glass Menagerie is a play that was written by Tennessee Williamsin 1944 and it argued by researchers that the play was a great one,which saw Williams rise to fame from a world obscurity. The play hasadopted a symbolism as a means of expressing the various aspects andthemes in the play. Symbolism is also used to describe the variouscharacters in the play. It is imperative to point out that the playis about a family of three, a mother, by the name Amanda, a son, Tomand a daughter who is an introvert and mentally instable by the nameLaura. There is also a character by the name of Jim, who is a formerhigh school classmate to Tom and his sister Laura (Williams 42).Amanda is a hardworking woman who tries her best to provide for thefamily since her husband left for a distant lover. The play revolvesaround the fragility of Laura and how the family tries to make endsmeet.
Symbolism in the play starts with the title itself, The GlassMenagerie, is a symbolic title that represents the fragility that isdepicted by Laura. It is evident that Laura is beautiful and thebeauty of the glass menagerie is a representation of Laura’sbeauty. The beauty that is manifest in the glass menagerie is tragicin one way or the other since it can break any time. This is the samecase with Laura who has a mental instability problem. In the glassmenagerie is a collection of animals, which again a symbol of theimaginations that Laura has in regard to the world which she is alooffrom. It is also evident that the glass menagerie is old and pasttime. In this regard, research has indicated that this is a symbolicrepresentation of how Tom views his older sister Laura as a personwho does not confine to the current traditions and times ofinteracting with the people and the world (Palladino 77).
The use of the glass menagerie in this play a clear representationof anything in the play that appears to be beautiful, but ends upbeing fragile and easy to break. It is also imperative to point outthat the enclosed nature of the menagerie is a representation ofLaura’s life, which appears to be of loneliness and secluded fromthe public. The aspect of Tom leaving their house frequently andopting to stand at the fire section is an indication or a symbolicgesture of his final departure from the family and staying alone. Itis evident that Tom normally smokes at the fire escape of theirhouse, which is an indication that he is independent. The lighting ofthe smoke fire is an indication that Tom does no longer want to sharethe family fire with Amanda and Laura and wants to take control ofhis own destiny. This is finally evident when Tom departs fromWingfield’s home and goes to stay alone in an unknown place(Williams 85). On the contrary, the fire escape indicates acontrasting picture of the life of Laura. It is evident that thereare a times when she tries to go to the escape but she is unable. Itcan therefore be seen that this is an indication that Laura is boundto remain with the family of Amanda.
Music is also used in symbolic manner in the play, the glassmenagerie. It is clear that the music plays from the Victrola playerthat was left by Amanda’s husband, Winfield when he left thefamily. As a consequence, the music played by the Victrola remindsboth Amanda and Laura of Winfield. It is also evident from the playthat Jim had a beautiful voice and Laura is viewed as connecting themusic to Jim whom she met at the school choir (Singh 114). The voiceof the music from the player is used as a source of distraction fromthe noise produced by the typewriter. Analysts suggest that the voiceof the typewriter was a constant reminder to Laura of her attemptedcollege education. It is a feeling that Laura would wish to forgetand the writer of the play uses music as a distraction of such amemory of a failed education.
Tom is described a person who goes to the movies frequently.However, an analysis of the play has indicated that the going to themovies was used as a means of escaping from the reality of life thathe used to live. In other words, Tom is going to watch the actionmovies, as a means of trying to seek an alternative life other thanthe one he living with Laura and Amanda. It is also imperative tonote that Tom has severally used the term going to the movies tosymbolize another activity. For instance, Tom has mostly used theterm “going to the movies” as a euphemism of going to drink(Singh 102). In other words, the aspect of going to the movies orcinema is used as a symbol of how Tom wants to escape from hiscurrent predicament and live a life of independence.
The typewriter has featured frequently in the play and has differentsignificance to Tom, Laura and Amanda. To Tom, the typewriter is asymbol of his means to escape from his predicament or the confines ofhis world where he works in a shoes warehouse. It is suggested thatthe job at the warehouse is tiresome and monotonous. Tom uses thetypewriter for typing his manuscripts, which he believes will one dayrescue him from the form of life that he leads. However, thetypewriter has a totally different meaning to Amanda (Shmoop Uni.25). She views the typewriter as an impediment towards Tom’scommitment to his job at the shoes warehouse. The time that he spendson the typewriter is viewed as a time that he would use to reflect onhis job.
Amanda also views the typewriter in their house as the impedimentwhich made Laura fail to succeed in her business course. In otherwords, the typewriter signifies the failure. It is a reminder of thefailure that Laura had in her business school. On the side of Laura,she views the typewriter as the symbol of the contemporary world. Itis evident that she runs away from it, just as she runs away from theworld. In addition to the above figures that are symbolic in theplay, he glass unicorn is another major figure of symbolism in theplay. It is evident that the unicorn is the best for Laura and Tomuses this figurine as the representative of Laura. The figurine isextremely beautiful, but also fragile. This is an exactrepresentation of Laura in this play. The symbolic feature of thefigurine is also evident when Jim breaks it just before kissing Laurain their house under the candle light (Shmoop Uni. 32). The brakingand the shattering of the figurine is an indication that Jim andLaura cannot be in love or in a marriage. In other words, the twocannot be together because Jim cannot be a position to handle thefragility of Laura and she would just break like the figurine. Thefragility of the figurine, which Laura gave to Jim is an indicationthat Laura will never become the normal woman who is sociallyaccepted by the society.
The name that Jim calls Laura, Blue Roses has been interpreted tomean pleurosis, a childhood disease that left Laura crippled. It isevident that William’s sister Rose had a similar health conditionanalysts suggest that the name was used as a symbol or as a tributeto the sister who suffered from the condition, when Williams waswriting the play.
Whereas the play has used objects and scenes to present symbolism inthe play, it is evident that the characters in the play are also arepresentation of the various stereotypes of humanity that exist inreal life. It is vital to point out that the characters in the playare the ultimate symbolic features of the entire play. Amanda, who isthe mother to Laura and Tom, seem to behave the way any mother wouldbehave provide security to her children. However, as it is evidentfrom the play, this does not come as easy as she had envisioned(Williams 96). Her children are from a generation that is differentfrom hers and also from a different region. As a consequence, they donot appreciate her efforts to provide security to them. She is seenas being aloof from the reality and her character seems to create athin line between a real woman and a character in the play. Amanda isviewed as having an attachment with the apartment that her husbandleft over. She takes full control of the house including the movementand the eating habits of the children. Her character id arepresentation of a group of women who seem to be aloof from thereality and a bother to their children. She believes she is a youngwoman Just as the play indicates towards the end during a party.
Laura, the daughter of Amanda is symbol of a girl child who seeks tofind socialization but is shy due to her crippled condition. Sherepresents people who desire to fit and be accepted in society. Laurarepresent people who are unable to interact with others due to theirdisability conditions. This character is associated with the Victrolaand the glass menagerie. She uses the Victrola to ply music, not forenjoying, but as a means to keep her aloof of the reality. The glassmenagerie and the glass unicorn represent her fragility and desire tostay alone. However, whereas the unicorn seems to be happy, Laura isnot happy with her life in disability and seems to be silent and inseclusion (Williams 57). Her character in the play is a symbol of thepeople with disabilities in real life societies and the difficultiesthat they go through while trying to be accepted in society.
The character of Tom in the play is a representation of a group ofpeople who feel as if they are slaves in their own families. It isevident from the play that Tom sole provider of the family and thathis mother only seems to control and the family but in real sensemakes no money for the family. His success and life dreams seem to behalted by the care and support he extends to his mother and sisterpeople whom he believes he is not supposed to be caring for (Presley127). Tom is a representation of people with extremely goodconscience and who would not leave their families to suffer in orderto pursue their dreams. He also represents or symbolizes people whoare dreamers, poets and who believe that they have a future ahead ofthem.
The places or objects that are associated with Tom represent a groupof people who want to run away from their predicaments. For instance,Tom is associated with the fire escape where goes to smoke. This isan indication of his wish to stay alone and move away from hiscurrent form of life (Bloom, 104). The aspect of going to the moviesindicate how people spend their time when want to be out of thehouse.
The play, the glass menagerie is a perfect reading that captures theimagination of the reader through the use of symbolism. Symbolism inthe play makes it clearly interesting as the reader struggles tointerpret the meaning of the different symbols and characters in therelation to the play. The characters in the play have alsorepresented different stereotypes of people in society.
Williams, Tennessee. The Glass Menagerie. New York: NewDirections, 2011. Print.
Bloom, Harold. Tennessee Williams`s the Glass Menagerie. NewYork: Bloom`s Literary Criticism, 2007. Print
Presley, Delma E. The Glass Menagerie: An American Memory.Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990. Print
Shmoop. The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. Sunnyvale,Calif.: Shmoop University, 2010. Print.
Palladino, Jennifer B. Bloom`s How to Write About TennesseeWilliams. New York: Infobase Pub, 2010. Print.
Singh, Jayshree. Bondage and Liberation: A Study in the SelectedPlays of Tennessee Williams. Rosedog Pr, 2009. Print.